Preview: Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid 

Preview: Villarreal vs. Atletico Madrid

Atletico Madrid will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in La Liga when they travel to Estadio de la Ceramica on Sunday evening to take on an in-form Villarreal side.
The reigning Spanish champions are currently fourth in the table, 14 points behind leaders Real Madrid, while Villarreal occupy eighth spot, four points off their opponents this weekend.
Villarreal were knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday courtesy of a 2-1 defeat at Sporting Gijon, but the Yellow Submarine are still fighting on two fronts this season, having qualified for the last-16 stage of the Champions League, with Juventus waiting for them in the first knockout round.
Unai Emery’s side have had their problems in La Liga this term but have been victorious in their last four games in Spain’s top flight, overcoming Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad, Alaves and Levante.
Villarreal have scored 10 times in their last two league matches against Alaves and Levante, and their recent run of form has allowed them to move up to eighth position in the table, just four points behind fourth-placed Atletico, while they are only five points behind Real Betis in third.
Emery’s team will be looking to fight for a top-four finish in the second half of the season but will have to improve their away form in order to challenge for a Champions League spot, having managed just one victory on their travels in the league this term, but they boast the fourth-best home record.
The Yellow Submarine have not beaten Atletico in the league since March 2018, but the two teams played out a 2-2 draw in the reverse match at Wanda Metropolitano earlier this season.
Atletico, meanwhile, will enter this game off the back of a 5-0 victory over Rayo Majadahonda in the Copa del Rey on Thursday, which saw them advance to the last-16 stage of the competition.
Diego Simeone’s side also managed to end a four-game losing run in La Liga last weekend by recording a 2-0 victory over high-flying Rayo Vallecano at Wanda Metropolitano.
Atletico, who will face Manchester United in the last-16 stage of the Champions League, have a busy few weeks, facing Athletic Bilbao in the semi-finals of the Spanish Super Cup on January 13 before tackling Real Sociedad in the Copa del Rey on January 18.
As a result, this is the capital side’s last league match until January 22, when they host Valencia, so it is vital that the reigning Spanish champions put three points on the board.
Atletico are not in a title race this season, sitting 14 points behind division leaders Real Madrid, but a top-four finish is the minimum requirement in the league, and the Red and Whites are now only one point clear of fifth-placed Barcelona, who are starting to put together a run of positive results in Spain’s top flight.
Villarreal La Liga form:
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Villarreal form (all competitions):
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Atletico Madrid La Liga form:
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Atletico Madrid form (all competitions):
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We say: Villarreal 1-1 Atletico Madrid
Back-to-back wins will certainly have boosted Atletico’s confidence following a difficult run of form, but Villarreal’s recent results in La Liga have been excellent. Both teams will also be missing some key players for this contest, so it would not be a surprise to see a close match finish all square.


 

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